Online digital and analog photographic album design and album ordering system
A turnkey solution is provided to users who wish to create a customized photo album with personalized features. The turnkey solution is an online system for designing and printing or designing and printing and binding photo albums. According to certain embodiments, such an online system includes providing a web-based workstation application that guides the user through a no-fault workflow procedure for specifying design, print and album production features.
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/643,849 filed Jan. 14, 2005, entitled, “ALBUM DESIGNER NETWORK SYSTEM (SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR DESIGN AND CUSTOMIZATION OF A PHOTO ALBUM),” by William Michlin, and which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.TECHNICAL FIELD
The present invention is directed to the field of online services, and more specifically to aspects of online album design, product ordering and image submission.BACKGROUND
The process of creating a customized photo album is a multi-faceted task that includes selecting vendors for printing, and bindery. Further, decisions as to type, style, color, materials of albums need to be made. A photographer may also choose to outsource the design of images and/or the production of the album to professional graphic designers, color labs and album binderies. Thus, it can be appreciated that the multi-faceted task of creating a customized photo album is time-consuming and requires considerable effort in managing and coordinating with the different vendors and designers before a customized album is produced. In the case of a professional photographer, for example, the amount of effort increases exponentially when the photographer is faced with creating a multiplicity of customized albums in the course of servicing the photographer's various clients.
Thus, there is a need for a convenient turnkey solution for creating customized albums with personalized features.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
According to certain embodiments, a turnkey solution is provided to users who wish to create a customized photo album with personalized features. According to one aspect, the turnkey solution is an online system for designing, printing, binding and ordering photo albums. According to certain embodiments, such an online system includes providing a web-based workstation. A user can access such an online system through a web browser from any location and using any operating system. The user-interface of such a system guides the user through a no-fault workflow procedure for specifying design features and for making selections as to type, style, material, format, etc., of a given customized photo album. According to another aspect, the user is provided with a choice of various vendors for printing, graphic design and bindery as part of the online workflow process. According to another aspect, such a turnkey solution includes an online tracking and notification system for tracking progress in one or more phases of the album creation process. Such a turnkey system is herein referred to as an Album Design Network (ADN) System
Users of the ADN system are photographers, both amateur and professional, or any person who is seeking a convenient avenue for creating a customized photo album. In a nutshell, the user can use the ADN System to create digitally designed event albums by outsourcing all production work to a network of specialized vendors to produce a finished photographic album after the images from an event have been selected for display in an album.
There are four main components that make up the ADN System. The four components are the color laboratory, graphic designers, album bindery and the customized software. These components are part of the ADN System that utilizes a wide area network connected via the Internet, for example. Each component has a specific role in completing the prints for the album pages and the overall production of the album. The color laboratory performs functions such as color correcting the images, and producing the color prints to be used for the pages in the final album. The graphic designers provide the artistic composition to digitally enhance the images provided by the photographer into a story line of the event at which the images were taken. The album bindery receives digitally enhanced and color-corrected color prints and binds them into pages and creates the finished album, according to the specifications selected by the user. The components of the ADN System are integrated to work seamlessly to produce an artistically crafted custom designed photo album. All participating vendors and members have web access to the ADN System. The final album is shipped by the bindery directly to the user. The photographer (user) can register as a member in the network either through the web site of a participating color lab or that of a participating bindery, according to certain embodiments. The photographer pays for services to the vendor through whose web site the photographer registered. The vendor collects the revenue from the photographer and in turn pays the ADN System members who provided services in the production of the album. Alternatively, the photographer can pay directly to ADN home office, and the ADN home office will pay the relevant vendors who provided services in the production of the album. The software utilized by the photographers includes a routing system between the ADN System services via FTP internet services, for example, and a reporting system that generates e-mails and back-end reporting accounting information. The participating vendors have access to a control panel that can be used to access an accounting system to keep track of receivables and payables. The ADN System provides different vendors within the system a snapshot of the amounts owed between participating vendors, according to certain embodiments. When a vendor pays his bills, he can click on the ‘mailed’ to generate a date of record to show the payee that a payment was sent. This financial information will appear on the control box under a financial status box that indicates “open”, “sent”, or “received”, for example. The ADN System provides other accounting features such as are cumulative totals for receivables and payables for each vendor. The vendor has the ability to insert dates, months, quarters, or years for statistical analysis and taxes, according to certain embodiments.
The online routing system provides a convenient and efficient method of routing the photographer's images between the photographer and the vendors, such as the color lab, graphics designers, bindery and the administrative staff of the ADN system.
Photographers can logon to the ADN website at anytime to track the production phase of their album orders. At key times during the production of any given album, an automated e-mail alert message is generated to notify the photographer that his input is required. For example, the email message may alert the photographer to review the preliminary design, or to give input for revisions of the design. The vendors have access to reporting features which include financial information on the costs and fees that are owed to them or that they owe to other vendors. The ADN System allows vendors to submit e-mails directly to users (photographers) regarding additional costs for artwork, questions on the design or any other communication necessary to complete the project. The ADN System makes for a shorter and more efficient production time than the prior art processes currently available. An entire customized album can be produced in a streamlined rapid order system. The ADN System takes over the extensive production work from photographers necessary in producing customized professional albums.
At step 104, if the photographer completes and submits an online registration form, an automated email alert generated by the ADN system signals the ADN administration. For example, the e-mail will provide the photographer's name and pertinent information to the backend reporting system if the photographer is a new member seeking access to the ADN System. Also, as part of the registration procedure, the photographer is asked to confirm his registration. In response, at step 106, an email that confirms registration is sent to the ADN administration.
At step 108, the ADN administration either can make a credit check on the photographer or the administration can proceed to step 110 to approve the photographer's registration if it has been established that the photographer has an acceptable credit history or if the photographer is an established customer of an existing ADN vendor. For example, if the photographer is an existing customer of the vendor and the vendor is in good standing, the vendor can click a button and admit the photographer, thus allowing the photographer entry into the ADN System. If the photographer is a new potential customer, the vendor will contact the photographer to obtain the pertinent information as required by the parameters of the ADN System to give the photographer access to the ADN System.
At step 110, the administration approves the photographer registration. At step 112, the ADN System emails a welcome message including a direct link along with a password and identification number for entering the ADN workstation through the ADN home page. Also included are instructions for using the ADN network.
At step 114, the photographer enters the ADN workstation if he wishes to begin designing and customizing prints and/or one or more photo albums. When the photographer enters the ADN workstation, he can select either a design-and-print option or a design-print-bind option. The design-print-bind option involves the creation of one or more complete photo albums.
At step 118, the photographer is prompted to upload his images to the ADN server 116. At this stage, the photographer need only upload low resolution images to speed up the uploading process. The photographer can view the uploaded images at the ADN imageviewer 120. By using the imageviewer, the photographer can tag one or more of the uploaded images with design instructions. For example, the photographer can specify color correction, cropping of images, and specify artistic design features that he would like added to the one or more of the uploaded images.
Once the photographer has specified the design instructions that he would like the vendors to implement, at step 122, the photographer can finalize and submit his selections for the design of the prints and/or album, at which point, the high resolution version of his images are automatically uploaded to the ADN server. At step 124, the photographer has the option of shipping the high resolution version of his images on a physical storage device, such as a CD-ROM, to the ADN home office 126. For example, the photographer may not have the computer resources or capability of uploading high resolution images to the ADN server. In that case, after the photographer finalizes and submits his selections for the design, the ADN System will automatically electronically package the images along with the photographer's design selections into an electronic folder. The photographer can then copy the electronic folder and its contents into a CD-ROM for mailing to the ADN home office. If the photographer ships the high resolution version of his images to the ADN home office, then at step 128, the ADN home office uploads the high resolution version of the photographer's images to the ADN server 116.
At step 130, the ADN network routes the uploaded high resolution images from the server to a participating color lab 132 selected by the photographer. According to certain embodiments, an electronic notification can be sent to the selected color lab that the images have been uploaded to the ADN server and are in need of color correction. Being a participating vendor in the ADN system, the selected color lab can access the ADN server to access the uploaded images. For example, the color labs computer system performs an automatic sweep of the ADN server and will download all orders that have been submitted to that particular color lab.
Upon completion of the color correction, at step 134a, the color corrected images are sent electronically, according to certain embodiments to the participating graphic designers. At step 134b, the graphic designers create artistically designed pages of the album and upload these pages to the ADN System. At step 136, the ADN System displays the uploaded pages as a virtual album on a customized webpage for the photographer, so that the photographer can show the virtual album to the photographer's clients. Upon completion of the design, the graphics designers either directly upload the virtual album to the ADN server or send the virtual album to the ADN home office.
At step 140a, an automated email notification is sent to the photographer with a link to view the online virtual album. The photographer can view the virtual album using the online album viewer and can make notes for revisions for each page of the virtual album. At step 142, the photographer can either approve the virtual album (step 142a) or the photographer can suggest revisions (142b) for one or more pages of the virtual album if revisions are desired.
At step 144, the photographer either sends his approval or he sends his suggested revisions of the album design to the ADN home office. If the photographer sends his suggested revisions of the album design, then step 134b is repeated where graphics designers make revisions to the album design based on the photographer's instructions. After the graphics designers complete the revisions of the album design, then at step 146, the revised album design is once again uploaded to the album design viewer 138. At step 140b, an automated email notification is sent to the photographer to view the revisions of the album design. Steps 142, 144, 134b, 146, and 140b are repeated until the photographer approves of the design of the album.
After the photographer approves of the design of the album, at step 148, the ADN home office sends the designed album pages in the form of electronic files to the selected color lab 132 for printing. At step 150, the color lab sends the printed album pages with images back to the ADN home office. At step 152, the ADN home office inspects the printed images from the color lab to ensure good quality.
At step 154, the ADN home office either send the prints to the photographer if the photographer has previously selected the design-and-print option or the ADN home office can send the printed album pages with the images to a participating bindery selected by the photographer if the photographer has previously selected the design-print-bind option.
At step 156, the selected bindery manufactures the album according to the album design features selected by the user. For example, the bindery manufactures the album based on the album material, album color, album color edging, seam color, inscription, etc., as selected by the photographer in the initial ordering phase. At step, 158, the finished album is dropped shipped to the photographer.
Assume that the photographer wishes to create a replica album but wishes to change some of album features in the replica album. For example, assume that the photographer wishes to change the album size and the album cover in the replica album.
In the foregoing specification, embodiments of the invention have been described with reference to numerous specific details that may vary from implementation to implementation. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.
1. A method in a computing system for photo album creation, the method comprising:
- providing a turnkey online system for at least one of digitally designing, printing, binding and ordering photo albums, wherein said turnkey online system includes providing a web-based online workstation that guides a user through an automated workflow with a graphical interface for said designing and ordering by allowing said user to select between competing design, print and bindery vendors within each order of one or more photo albums, and automatically coordinating with vendors selected by said user in a manner that is transparent to said user to provide a finished product to said user.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein said turnkey online system is accessible by said user through a web browser from any location and using any operating system.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing a selection procedure to said user to create a no-fault system for said vendors by requiring said user to be responsible for making, reviewing, and authorizing selection options before said vendors design or manufacture said photo albums for said user.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising an electronic notification procedure for notifying said user of one or more stages of a design phase and production of said photo albums.
5. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing a real-time electronic tracking mechanism to said user after said user has submitted an order for one or more of prints and said one or more photo albums wherein said mechanism allows said user to track each stage of production of said prints and said one or more photo albums.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an automated accounting system including a reporting feature to said vendors.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
- providing visual feedback to said user as said user navigates through said automated workflow, wherein said visual feedback includes a display of images and text based on selections made by said user at each stage of said workflow.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an integration mechanism for integrating said turnkey online system with corresponding legacy accounting, reporting and production systems associated with each vendor.
9. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an automated electronic monitoring mechanism for monitoring progress of a production flow associated with each submitted order for photo albums.
10. The method of claim 9, further comprising flagging orders that have a delay in said progress of said production flow.
11. The method of claim 10, further comprising providing an automated electronic alert mechanism for notification of said delay.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising posting an online version of said finished product for review and final approval by said user.
13. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an archiving mechanism for allowing said user to archive any number of online version of finished products.
14. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an online light-board for allowing said user to layout photographs in a desired sequence of display and to attach any design and printing instructions for each photograph in said sequence.
15. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing an online slide show version of said finished product set to music for a web presentation to customers of said user.
16. The method of claim 6, wherein said accounting system includes tracking payments owed and paid to each vendor.
17. A method for photo album creation, the method comprising:
- providing an automated print and album order web-based interface for selecting, by a user, photograph print design options and album design options;
- allowing said user to upload images to an online image-viewer for viewing and for specifying design details associated with said images;
- automatically sending said images to a user-selected print laboratory for color-correction according to said specified design details;
- automatically sending said color-corrected images to graphic designers for designing said images according to said specified design details for creating a virtual album;
- allowing said user to review said virtual album and specify design revisions through said web-based interface;
- automatically sending final user approved images to said print laboratory for making prints of said final user approved images;
- performing quality control checks on said prints; and
- automatically performing any one of sending said prints to said user and sending said prints to a user-selected bindery for manufacturing said photo album.
18. An automated system for an album creation, the system comprising:
- a selection means for selecting, by a user, photograph print design options and album design options;
- a viewing means for viewing and for specifying design details associated with images; and
- a user design control means for allowing user to track and control a design phase of prints of said images and said album.
19. A computer-readable medium carrying one or more sequences of instructions for photo album creation, wherein execution of the one or more sequences of instructions by one or more processors causes the one or more processors to perform:
- providing a turnkey online system for designing, and ordering photo albums, wherein said turnkey online system includes providing a web-based online workstation that guides a user through an automated workflow with a graphical interface for said designing and ordering by allowing said user to select between competing design, print and bindery vendors within each order of multiple photo albums, and automatically coordinating with vendors selected by said user in a manner that is transparent to said user to provide a finished product to said user.
Filed: Jan 17, 2006
Publication Date: Jul 20, 2006
Inventor: William Michlin (Deerfield, IL)
Application Number: 11/334,058
International Classification: G09G 5/00 (20060101);